Review By: Andrew Joy
|# Of Players:||1|
|Accessories:||Rumble Pak (built-in)|
If you think Drill Dozer is just one of those games that came right out of left field, think again! Chances are you've heard of it before and don't even realize it yet. Though it is no longer called Screw Breaker (Ah, sounds familiar now, eh?), it is still the same game that raised eyebrows in Japan when it was announced for the Game Boy Advance. Now, while Screw Breaker is something of a strange title to be sure, the game actually gained notoriety because of the people behind it.
While you probably know Game Freak, a second-party Nintendo developer, best from the POKéMON games, Drill Dozer is hardly the first title they have made aisde from their cash cow franchise, though it is certainly the first one in a long while. That alone was enough to get people wondering what sort of game all that pent-up creativity (Oh, come on, the POKéMON series really hasn't been going anywhere!) would turnout. The answer, of course, is Drill Dozer, a side-scrolling platformer with more to offer than simply meets the eye.
The story of Drill Dozer is that of Jill, the young daughter of Big Boss Doug, leader of the Red Dozers. The Red Dozers are a group of "friendly thieves," though not in a Robin Hood sort of way and just in the typical good versus evil sense, who use a drill-equipped robot - the titular Drill Dozer - to pull off their heists. One day, while Jill is at school and the Red Dozers are out casing their next hit, rival thieves known as the Skullkers (they're the bad ones, FYI) attack the Red Dozers' HQ, put Jill's father in traction and make off with her mother's Red Diamond.
When Jill learns of this, she takes control of the Red Dozers, hops into her Drill Dozer and heads out to get revenge and, of course, her mother's Red Diamond (and plenty of other treasures). Of course, Jill isn't alone in her efforts either. Joining her on her quest is veteran thief Grutch, who'll provide her with constant updates, young grease monkey Gearmo, who shines light on the more technical side of things, and even a little shopkeeper who will sell Jill various improvements for her Drill Dozer, such as more energy and specialized drill bits.
It's not an easy task, though, and standing in her way is the whole of the Skullker gang, their mysterious leader Croog, the just but determined Detective Carrie, a police force of crooked cops and various other monsters and contraptions ready to send poor Jill to her doom.
Most of the enemies in Drill Dozer are low-level filler that you can easily defeat, save for the fact that they often times swarm you in overwhelming numbers, quite frequently causing you to take damage just trying to maneuver around them all. The next are those that only have a very specific weakness and a barrage of defenses otherwise. Unfortunately, when you first encounter them, it's a sort of trial and error process to determine what that weakness actually is. In the same category, I also place enemies that can still hurt you once you defeat them through some effect or another. In both cases it is almost necessary to take damage just to figure what you're supposed to do.
Then, of course, there are the mini-bosses and bosses. Out of all of them, I find it sad to say, these are probably the easiest to defeat! Even without the interruptions from your crew, they aren't too difficult to figure out. I mean, you're armed with a drill, so usually you just have to wait until something flashes and then drill the heck out of it...it's not rocket science.
Most of the enemies in the game are easy to defeat, usually having some sort of tell or another and, by the time you finish a level, I'd venture to say you'll have taken more damage from the actual level (exposed wires, lasers, spikes, pitfalls, etc) than from the enemies within.
Of course, conquering the levels is just half the beauty, not to mention fun, of Drill Dozer. The level design of Drill Dozer is, for lack of a better word, ingenious! In fact, I can't stop gushing about it; it's quite simply a thing of beauty that one wouldn't expect to see outside games like The Legend of Zelda! While you may not have any problem defeating most of the enemies in Drill Dozer, you may have quite a time trying to figure out exactly how to progress through the game's levels.
There are areas in the levels where special prizes await, including treasures and chips (the games currency), but you'll likely pass those by the first time through without even realizing it. The problem is that, with the sometimes seemingly endless stream of enemies and obstacles, you may be in such a hurry that you won't even think to look and sometimes you won't even know what you're looking for. While a map might be asking too much, equipping the Drill Dozer with some kind of radar would have seemed quite natural in my opinion and would have made the treasure easier to obtain, especially since they are usually pretty simple to reach.
Somewhat harder to get are the item boxes right in plain sight, which sometimes only contain chips, but usually health and your next gear. To get those boxes, and even to progress, you really have to stand back and look at the situation sometimes. The uses of both the environment and your own abilities are too clever for words and, at times, require such a dexterity of your fingers that you may try and fail several times before you finally succeed.
Actually, I suppose it's not so much a dexterity of your fingers as it is your mind. In order to successfully play Drill Dozer, you have to have at the very least two levels of thinking: one to compete with your foes and another just to wrap your mind around the level. In fact, if you have the cunning to see what needs to be done right off the bat, you might not have any problem at all with the controls, because they are actually quite natural.
Posted: 2006-02-18 14:40:08 PST